Duck, Cover & Hold has been a mainstay of California preparedness and response for years. There has been some recent controversy regarding its’ effectiveness since folks have received “Triangle of Life” emails from a Doug Copp, a self-proclaimed rescue expert with no formal training in the area of Urban Search and Rescue.
He suggests in California we should no longer duck and cover under furniture, but rather get down next to it. For schools he is suggesting children should lie in the aisles instead of under desks made from solid wood or steel legs with wood tops. He bases this idea on the theory “Triangle of Life” which is based on a void space being created when a building collapses and lands on the furniture. The lean to effect creates voids where people can survive. The theory is accurate. But, not taking cover leaves one extremely vulnerable and exposed to all the other debris and building pieces that could easily impale a survivor or seriously injure their necks, heads and/or backs. Not to mention the greatest hazard, Glass. Glass imploding into a room can impale itself into drywall. Why would you want to be so exposed. As a professional firefighter I can’t tell you how many times my polycarbonate helmet has kept me from being seriously injured. Being under any furniture would be a great piece of protection.
The idea that everything will be crushed is not realistic with California construction or the U.S. for that matter. We do not build un-reinforced concrete buildings. We use lightweight construction such as wood. He uses examples of buildings in third world countries. In countries such as Turkey, Pakistan and China they suffer losses of life in the numbers of 5,000 to 30,000 from earthquakes with of magnitudes from 5.3 to a 7.2. In California, our earthquakes of Loma Prieta in No. California and Northridge in So. California only caused 63 and 57 deaths. Our building standards speak for themselves.
I have personally been in collapsed structures in California. The furniture has never been crushed. Instead we find a ceiling structure lying on top of all the homes furnishings. Remember the entire load will not rest on one piece of furniture. The load will be shared among many pieces, thus sharing the load throughout the room or building.
Of even greater concern to me is the number of school teachers who may as a result of this erroneous Triangle of Life e-mail, begin to place their (our) children in the aisles of classrooms. To suggest that not having cover in a classroom during an earthquake is an advantage over Duck, Cover & Holding under furniture is completely irresponsible and dangerous. The greatest risk in a classroom is not the risk of building collapse but rather the heavy light fixtures that have a real probability of coming down and severely injuring them while lying in the aisles.
Take advantage of any cover you have available, and remember you cannot outrun an earthquake. Duck, Cover & Hold will save lives.